You'll have heard about all the new digital channels coming this fall. Of course, if you already have access to digital, you'll know that a bunch of channels already exist that aren't listed in your TV guide.
There's the BBC all-news channel for those of you who insist upon a British perspective on the world and who need the cricket scores.
There's the Gameshow Channel for people who are inexplicably addicted to Family Feud and other instances of addled Americans behaving like idiots in hopes of a cash reward.
The Playboy Channel offers you women with unlikely appendages doing things you are unlikely to witness anywhere else. And there are five versions of the Movie Network.
It's on one of the digital TMN channels that you'll find Son of the Beach (tonight, TMN 5, 11:15 p.m.), an extraordinary creation from Howard Stern's production company.
Now, Howard Stern has a deserved reputation for gross and depraved humour on his radio show and its TV version. His TV show, syndicated and airing on Saturday nights, never really threatened Saturday Night Live, as it was supposed to do.
What Stern has going for him right now is one strange TV show that features scantily clad young women running up and down the beach.
Son of the Beach is a loose, louche parody of Baywatch, and it's actually very funny sometimes. Stern didn't create it but he clearly has a lot of input into the scripts. There's always been a touch of real Swiftian satire in Stern's humour -- the mocking of the pompous through emphasis on bodily functions and general stupidity. Here the target of the satire isn't merely the old Baywatch show, but MTV, handsome high-school kids and anybody who is beautiful but stupid. There is a great deal of silly sexual innuendo, occasional vomiting (it's all so obviously faked that the fakery is part of the humour) and all the good-looking people talk like complete morons. There's a deep and abiding loathing here for the gorgeous airheads celebrated by the American pop-culture machine.
The plot, such as it is, generally involves the team of buxom lifeguards saving their beach at "Malibu Adjacent" from someone or something evil. They are led by Notch Johnson (Tim Stack, the show's creator), an earnest idiot whose little paunch is on full display, flowing over the waist of his tight trunks. The blond female lifeguard with a body that promises pneumatic bliss, B. J. (Jaime Bergman), is a virgin and the most honest and reliable young woman in America. She's also really dense. The brunette, Jamaica (Leila Arcieri), talks barely comprehensible ghetto slang and starts a fist-fight at every opportunity. The one guy on the team is an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type (Roland Kickinger) named Chip, who appears to be talking Yiddish most of the time.
There's a nice girl, Kimberlee (Kimberly Oja), who gets all the dirty jobs. Everybody sems blissfully unaware that most of the dialogue involves outrageous innuendo. Often the episodes have titles similar to the punning names of porn movies -- "Remember Her Titans" is typical.
Sometimes it's just idiotic in the old-fashioned way. In one episode I've seen, Chip (whose last name is Rommel) announces that he wants time off to train for the Mister Pec Pageant. Apparently his friend Gunther won the pageant years before, and Chip announces, "I would do anything to follow in his goose steps!" Good old Kimberlee gets to utter the line, "Think you've got the chops, Chip?"
And so it goes throughout the episode, as the crazy dumbbells talk nonsense and the show manages to mock all that is good and good-looking in America. Son of the Beach has been airing for months on the American cable channel FX and it's the channel's biggest hit. It's not necessarily an indication of the digital future, but it's so crazy and crude that we probably wouldn't see it unless digital channels existed. The TeleLatino Network isn't on digital but it's a cable channel that probably gets very few English-language viewers.
Most of its programming is in Italian or Spanish, but the channel is now trying to lure occasional viewers who aren't of Latino background. It will air more Italian and Spanish-language movies with English subtitles and, starting tomorrow, it offers English commentary on one of the world's great sporting events, the Copa America. That is, the tournament for countries in South and Central America to decide the champion soccer nation. As you may have gathered over the years, they take soccer rather seriously down there.
Unfortunately for TLN, the Copa America is in complete disarray.
About 10 days ago, the tournament, scheduled to take place in Colombia, was suspended after a Colombian soccer official was kidnapped. Then it was postponed until next year. That decision outraged some because the World Cup of soccer also takes place next year.
So, after pressure from broadcasters and sponsors, the Copa America was reinstated and is scheduled to begin tomorrow, with games at 6:30 p.m. (Ecuador versus Chile) and 9:30 p.m. (Colombia versus Venezuela). Mind you, because of the confusion, Argentina has withdrawn from the tournament, and so has Canada, invited to participate.
You see the most extraordinary scenes watching soccer from around the world. One recent Sunday morning I saw the game between Roma and Parma, the deciding game of the Italian league. Minutes before the end, when it was clear that Roma had won, thousands of fans invaded the field. Roma players were stripped of their shirts and shorts, and some were left standing on the field in their underwear, socks and boots. The singing in the packed stadium was deafening. Forget the Blue Jays -- soccer players in the Latin world are the real boys of summer. Dates and times may vary across the country. Please check local listings. email@example.com